An ideal meeting ground for diverse races, Assam gave shelter to streams
of human waves carrying with them distinct cultures and trends of civilization.
Austro-Asiatics, Negritos, Dravidians, Alpines, Indo-mongoloids, Tibeto-Burmese
and Aryans penetrated into Assam through different routes and contributed
in their own way towards the unique fusion of a new community which came
to be known in later history as the Assamese. Assam, however,
predominantly a land of the Tibeto-Burmese. The vast section of the people
of Assam belong to either to this stock or owe their origin to the fusion
of this stock with other racial groups. In Assam (excluding the Surma
valley) and north-east Bengal, the Dravidian type has, to a great
extent, been replaced by the Mongolian, while in the Surma valley and
the rest of Bengal a mixture of races has taken place in which the recognizable
Mongolian element diminishes towards the west and disappears altogether
before Bihar is reached.
There has been racial intermixture among the population
of Assam. The Mongoloid racial stock have large number of tribes. Their
physical features are described as "a short head, a broad nose,
a flat and comparatively hairless face, a short but muscular figure and
a yellow skin." But there are numerous other races also. Traces of
the Negroid are to be found among the Nagas. The Khasis who speak Austric
language belong to the proto-australoids. The Kaibartas and the Banias
of Assam are said to be descendants of the Dravidians. They are distinguished
by "a long head, large and dark eyes, a fairly strong beard, a black
or nearly black colour and a very broad nose, depressed at the base, but
not so as to make the face look flat". Then there are the Aryans,
with a long head, tall and well-built, having a fine, long and prominent
nose and a fair complexion, who came to Assam from across Bihar and Bengal.
All these peculiarities of physiognomy one will encounter in Assam.